I have never been a ‘brand snob’, nor have I understood the reasons some people are. In this line of work you have to be open minded; willing to give everything a try. One day you are driving a Jaguar, and the next an MG. So you soon learn to spot a good car, irrespective of the badge it sports. The Skoda Superb is a prime example. Brand snobs won’t get it: they’d go for its Volkswagen or Audi counterparts; the Passat and A4 respectively. But in doing so, are they missing out? Well to find out, I got hold of the new Superb Sportline. What’s more, this was the quickest in the range. Seriously quick.
Looks – 9/10
The styling on the Superb is fantastic, and the Sportline is the best of the bunch. The lines are angular, creating an aggressive stance. At the front the headlights are sharply contoured, with integrated LED daytime running lights sweeping away from a large grille with gloss black surround. The bonnet is not smooth, instead featuring a raised bump in the centre. The front wheel arch swooshes into a striking line which runs right down the side to the rear lights. The gloss black finishing extends to the mirrors, window surround and rear spoiler. The dark grey 19 inch alloys are a lovely turbine design, filling the arches nicely. At the back the design is a little more civilised with some sleek, executive lines. The rear lights sweep away from the rear quarter panel, and the LED rear light package is more than worth the £150 option cost. The narrow, wide outlines for two exhausts are subtle, but add to the sporty package nicely.
Inside the Sportline, the centrepiece is a pair of bolstered, body-hugging seats, finished in half leather and quilted alcantara. The door cards are also finished in alcantara, encasing the driver in a sea of sportiness. Gloss black trim is finished with a carbon-look veneer, complete with LED lighting on the dashboard and all four door cards. This can be customised, both in colour and brightness, allowing you to create the suitable ambiance for your mood. Other highlights include a perforated, grippy, flat-bottomed steering wheel, elegant black and white dials and a crisp 8-inch touchscreen multimedia screen. VW/Audi group has a reputation for quality, and that shines through the cabin of the Superb. It really is a fantastic place to be, and I have absolutely no issues at seeing a Skoda badge on the steering wheel in front of me. Especially when I’m sat in a snug bucket seat with 280PS at my disposal.
Handling/Performance – 9/10
The engine in my test car is an absolute gem. It’s the same 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine as found in the Volkswagen Golf R, but turned down a little. Still, with an offering of 280PS and 350Nm of torque I wouldn’t call it weak. What’s more, with a brilliant 6-speed DSG automatic gearbox and 4WD, it really flies. If you use the launch control, and you will, then 0-62mph is dealt with in a brisk 5.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph. That’s enough to call this a hot hatchback, and enough to surprise a few cars on the road. Power delivery is punchy and constant, thanks to instant changes from the DSG box. You can change drive modes to opt for a more responsive, sporty drive, and then dial it back down for long-haul motorway cruising. What I don’t like is the push button start. It’s on the steering column, where a key would go. It just loses that sense of occasion from being in the middle of the dashboard.
Now, I mentioned that my test car had 4WD. And 280PS. What’s so great about the 4WD system is that 280PS feels a bit ‘meh’. This Superb could handle another 100PS. Easy. It has grip that never ends. In the dry, it launches like a scalded cat and corners at speeds a car this size simply shouldn’t. In the wet, the system maintains traction and gives a sense of composure that allows you to push harder than you otherwise would. The steering is weighty, precise and sharp. The Superb turns in and hits the apex every time. And then that 280PS engine pushes you out the other side towards the next bend. The Sportline gets a sport chassis, and that helps with stability through the corners. There’s two-level electronic stabilisation control (ESC) but you can turn this off because the Skoda is so finely balanced it’s not needed unless conditions are particularly bad. The Superb may bark, but it doesn’t bite. It’s the perfect balance between civilised and bonkers.
Economy – 9/10
With a turbocharged engine, 4WD and an automatic gearbox, you would expect t
he Superb to be failed by its own economy credentials. But it’s not that simple. The engine, despite being turbocharged, is still only 2.0-litre. The modern DSG gearbox is as, if not more, economical than a manual. And start stop technology helps to improve fuel consumption in traffic. The result is a CO2 figure of 160g/km which equates to an initial road tax payment of £500. After this, the standard £140 a year will apply, and as the Superb is less than £40k you can avoid the additional surcharge. Combined fuel consumption is a respectable 39.8mpg, and I think that’s more than enough for the performance on offer. I went on a few longer trips, and I was surprised at how frugal the superb was. It all depends on how much restraint you can show with the loud pedal.
Practicality – 10/10
Let me start by saying: the Superb is a vast, spacious car. The rear legroom is vast, and even the tallest of adults would be comfortable in it. The boot on the hatchback is very spacious, but it is outdone by the estate version. The interior will look familiar to anyone who owns a VW, Audi or Seat: it’s uncluttered, logical and easy to use. The Sportline is generously equipped too. Columbus navigation with Wi-Fi and Apple CarPlay, ‘KESSY’ keyless entry and start system, bi-xenon headlights with adaptive front lighting and electric driver’s seat with memory function are all standard equipment. There are some reasonably-priced options too. An electric boot will cost you £520. Front and rear parking sensors are £350, and heated front seats are £250. If you’re feeling especially technological, you can opt for wireless phone charging (£300). This is a great car to live with, and is perfect for the family.
Fun – 10/10
As far as being a fun package the Superb was, well, superb. It looks sporty, but not in a yobbish way. The performance is more than adequate to give you a thrill behind the wheel. The 4WD system keeps you out of trouble on the greasiest of roads, and shrugs off the 280PS onslaught from the turbocharged engine with ease. Skoda may not be the first name on your list of driver’s cars, but my God it’s good. And that element of surprise was one of the most satisfying aspects of the Skoda. Friends were shocked with the punch in the back available with a stab of my right foot, and the insurmountable grip levels meant they lost traction on their seats before the car did on the road. The Superb makes you want to drive. And drive. And drive.
My week with the Superb went too fast. I really didn’t want to give it back. Whilst Skoda may not have access to the most up-to-date items in the VW-Audi parts bin, it does a damn fine job with the ones available. The styling is sleek and executive, yet the sporty touches are there if you look hard enough. This all-guns-blazing model is £34,335 and with a few options my well-specced test car was £35,635. Given that a Golf R 5-door DSG starts also starts around £34k I’d say the Superb offers a great value mix of performance and practicality. For more information visit your local dealer or head over to the Skoda website. Speaking of the Golf R, you know it’s an R. Now this 280PS Skoda Superb looks identical (and has identical badges) to the 1.4-litre TSI and 2.0-litre TDI. And that makes it the ultimate sleeper car. Other motorists, beware.
Total Score – 47/50